When you play a certain videogame series or genre, it is sometimes expected that you will encounter some form of memorable videogame moment. If you are playing a Metal Gear Solid game, for instance, you know one of the boss battles will blow you away. When you play a JRPG with a spiky-haired protagonist, you know one of the story twists will either touch your heart or leave you confused and bewildered.
But all of these moments are expected. It doesn’t make them any less memorable, but all the shock and surprise of encountering these moments is taken away when you know something is coming.
That’s what makes encountering a memorable moment in a seemingly random videogame all the more special. And this has never been more apparent for me than when playing Klonoa: Door to Phantomile on the original PlayStation. I went into that game expecting to play a colorful, fun platformer.
I didn’t expect to be moved to tears.
There was time in the early days of the PlayStation, when beautiful 2.5D platformers with 3D backgrounds were being released on a fairly regular basis. I loved them all, as they combined my love of side-scrolling platform games with the new, fancy technology of 3D graphics.
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile was one of these games.
The minute I saw the first screenshot I was already in love.
In the game, you play as the main cat-like character Klonoa, a resident of the fantastic, colorful world of Phantomile.
In Phantomile, many of the citizens have trouble remembering their dreams since the entire world itself thrives off of these dreams. Because of this, dreams are very loose and airy, never really latching themselves onto the minds and memories of the people of Phantomile.
At the very start of the game, though, Klonoa has a very clear dream -- the clearest he has had in years! -- about a giant airship crashing into a mountain.
Days later, this event actually happens!
Curious as always, Klonoa takes his best friend Huepow to go investigate the mysterious crash.
When they reach the crash site, Klonoa and Huepow discover two foreboding creatures. One is named Ghadius and the other is his servant, a creepy clown named Joka. Both reveal that they are searching for a mystical pendant that will grant them endless amounts of power.
Before departing, Ghadius and Joka kidnap a young woman named Lephise.
Determined to get her back, Klonoa and Huepow decide to chase after the two mysterious enemies.
Their journey takes them through many realms and environments, eventually leading back to Klonoa’s own house. Here, Ghadius and Joka find the hidden pendant and steal it away from Klonoa, killing his grandfather in the process.
Enraged, Klonoa sets out to defeat the horrible antagonist.
On the top of a giant tower, Klonoa confronts Ghadius. After a long, complicated battle, Klonoa defeats Ghadius and Joka, preventing them from bringing nightmares to the land.
Upon his defeat, Ghadius unleashes an even more powerful creature, a beast of pure evil called Nahatomb.
Traveling to the Moon Kingdom, Klonoa and Huepow follow Nahatomb, determined to stop his evil ways. With the help of all the allies they met throughout the game, Huepow sacrifices himself to defeat Nahatomb and bring peace to Phantomile.
But with this peace comes a secret that Klonoa never saw coming.
It is this secret that is this week’s Memory Card moment: Farwell, Klonoa.
As Nahatomb falls, the kidnapped princess Lephise appears above Klonoa. She thanks him and tells him all the nightmares have disappeared.
At this moment, Huepow appears. He isn't actually dead! The two are ecstatic to see each other.
Klonoa tells Huepow that they will be “together always.”
The two embrace and journey back to Phantomile together.
Near Klonoa’s house, Huepow and Klonoa sit on the edge of a hill, staring at the beautiful world in front of them.
For Klonoa, the moment could not be any better -- sharing a world of peace with his best friend.
But Klonoa senses something is wrong. Huepow is not speaking and is acting different. He is distracted by something.
Klonoa tries to get his friend to smile, reminding him about how much the two of them can hang out and play in the newly saved world.
Huepow takes a deep breath. He looks at Klonoa and reveals something to him.
“You’re actually ... “ Huepow slowly says. “You’re really ... You don’t really exist in this world.”
Klonoa is shocked.
Huepow continues, revealing all to Klonoa. He tells him how he called Klonoa to Phantomile from a different world to restore the balance of dreams.
Klonoa doesn’t believe any of it. He tells Huepow how he remembers growing up in Phantomile. He remembers living a life with Huepow. He remembers the day he met. The times they used to play together.
Huepow tells Klonoa those are all false memories that he implanted in this head when he was brought to Phantomile.
Phantomile is not Klonoa’s reality.
Klonoa starts to get angry. He can’t believe what he is hearing.
Before Huepow even has time to say anything, Lephise appears at the top of the local bell tower and begins singing a song.
The song forms a portal in the sky. A portal that will take Klonoa back to his own world.
The portal begins to pull Klonoa towards it.
Huepow looks down. He tells Klonoa it is time for him to go home.
Klonoa starts to scream. “I don’t want to! I don’t want to!”
The portal pulls Klonoa closer.
Suddenly, Huepow has a revelation. He doesn’t want to say goodbye to Klonoa. He rushes towards him and grabs the large ring Klonoa is carrying.
Klonoa rises in the air. The only thing keeping him in this world is Huepow’s hard grip on the ring.
Huepow starts to cry and scream.
The force of the portal gets stronger.
Without warning, Klonoa loses his grip and flies backwards. His last word before entering the portal echoes throughout Phantomile.
“Huepow!” Klonoa screams as the portal flashes white and closes forever.
Huepow stares into the sky, stunned. He starts to cry.
With this, Lephise’s song grows louder. Sun beams break through the clouds and bath the land below with their warm light.
Flowers start to bloom everywhere.
Huepow wipes away his tears and looks to the sky. He smiles.
You can watch the surprisingly emotional conclusion to Klonoa: Door to Phantomile right here:
I like to think it has a lot to do with the fact that I never in a million years would have expected to be so moved by the story in a game like Klonoa, but, for whatever reason, I actually shed a tear (or two) at the end of the game.
The story really touched me.
Klonoa surprisingly taps into the universal feelings of friendship and loss. Anyone can relate to these things, and the game does an outstanding job of building up this strong relationship between Klonoa and Huepow the entire game.
So when the final boss is defeated, it comes at nothing less than a major shock to hear that Klonoa doesn’t actually live in the world of Phantomile and that all the memories he has with Huepow are made up.
Since the friendship with Klonoa and Huepow is so well-established in the game, this news also hits the player just as much as it hits Klonoa. You feel blindsided, angry, and sad, just as Klonoa does.
But the final scene works for many more reasons than just the story alone.
Without an exquisite amount of direction, the scene would fall apart and not be nearly as effective.
When Huepow and Klonoa start talking on the hill, the scene plays out like any other in-game cutscene. The two exchange dialogue and the whole scene feels like the pleasant conclusion to any other game.
But then Huepow reveals the truth.
At this point, a pre-rendered cutscenes takes over. Lephise is shown in the bell tower as she begins to sing.
The song is beautiful and really adds to the scene’s emotions.
Then, the shot cuts back to Klonoa and Huepow. After only a small amount of dialogue, the rest of the scene plays out with nothing but visuals and music.
This scene could have easily been polluted with an over-abundance of dialogue, but choosing to have the conclusion play out in a pre-rendered cutscene with almost no words is absolutely genius ... and strikingly powerful.
Just look at Klonoa’s face as he is pulled back into the portal. He is scared, hurt, confused. He doesn’t want to leave his friend, even if their memories together and not even real. He cares for Huepow, even after hearing the truth.
He wants to stay in Phantomile. He would do anything to stay in Phantomile. He longs to stay with his friend so much that you, the player, almost want to reach through the T.V. yourself and grab a hold of him.
All of this pain and sadness can be seen on Klonoa’s face. And the game’s directors, animators, and designers did this. They created this moment from nothing more than an idea. This beautiful moment that has the power to bring a tear to your eye. This moment between two characters you never thought you cared about until that last second before Klonoa loses his grip on the ring.
When you combine the choreography of the scene, the angles of the camera, the gorgeous musical score -- when you combine all these things it creates this beautiful, haunting conclusion to a very sad and surprisingly emotional story.
Not many people went into Klonoa: Door to Phantomile expecting a story that could possibly make them cry.
I know I didn’t.
But, man, I did cry. More than I think I care to remember.
And that is the reason this moment is so special.
The Memory Card Save Files
.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid)
.02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV)
.03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
.04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human)
.05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil)
.06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI)
.07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil)
.08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission)
.09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents)
.10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
.11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI)
.12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus)
.13: The submerged letter (StarTropics)
.14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
.16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars)
.17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads)
.18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V)
.19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid)
.20: The message in the glass (BioShock)
.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger)
.22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
.23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2)
.24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft)
.25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64)
.26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV)
.27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War)
.28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon)
.29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2)
.30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI)
.31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
.32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle)
.33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door)
.34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid)
.35: A leap of faith (Ico)
.36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
.37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215)
.38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64)
.39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4)
.40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey)
.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars)
.42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2)
.43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
.44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden)
.46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island)
.47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard)
.49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana)
.50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two)
.51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim)
.52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
.53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
.54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion)
.55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger)
.56: A fiery demise? (Portal)
.57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil)
.58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day)
.59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III)
.60: Flint's rage (Mother 3)
.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening)
.62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII)
.63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando)
.64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
.65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter)
.66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV)
.67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra)
.68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box)
.69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King)
.70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2)
.71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV)
.72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
.73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria)
.74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger)
.75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II)
.76: Brotherly love (Mother 3)
.77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
.78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride)
.79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2)
.80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound)
.82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X)
.83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog)
.84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis)
.86: Death is final (Fire Emblem)
.87: A Snake in a microwave (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.88: The mark of a THIEF (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening)
.89: MEAT 'SPLOSION! ('Splosion Man)
.90: In her father's Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
.91: A sniper rifle and a telephone (Grand Theft Auto IV)
.92: Sacrificing Yoshi (Super Mario World)
.93: Language barrier (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
.94: Death is impossible (Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge)
.95: The jeep chase (Metal Gear Solid)